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Child found locked in basement of home

Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012 @ 3:24 PM
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2012 @ 5:18 PM

MIDDLETOWN — A father and stepmother are accused of locking their 12-year-old daughter in a Middletown basement for nearly a month, tying her up and feeding her only cereal.

The couple have been charged with kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and child endangering, a third-degree felony, according to police.

Middletown police said an anonymous complaint led Butler County Children Services this month to investigate Shawn Blackston, 40, and Joanna Blackston, 36, who live at 1606 Philadelphia Ave. The complaint was that the couple were allegedly abusing one of their six children.

After Children Services staff members saw the “deplorable living conditions,” Middletown police were notified on July 3, said Lt. Scott Reeve.

Reeve said the children were removed from the home that day and placed in foster care and charges were filed against Shawn and Joanna Blackston on July 6 when they were found and arrested in a Sharonville motel.

Reeve said the girl, a sixth-grader in the Middletown City Schools District, had been allegedly locked in the basement since June 18, about a month after her last day of school. There were several locks on the outside of the door that led to the basement, Reeve said.

He said there was only a mattress in the unfinished basement, and the glass block windows were covered by sheets or wood, eliminating light from coming inside. One light bulb hung from the ceiling.

There was no bathroom in the basement, so the girl was let out of the basement when she needed to use the rest room, Reeve said.

Her only communication with her siblings was through floor boards and under the basement door, Reeve said.

Meanwhile, he said, the other children had air conditioners in their second-floor windows and video game systems in their bedrooms. When interviewed, the father and stepmother said locking the 12-year-old in the basement was a form of punishment and a way of protecting the other children.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Reeve said.

The girl was malnourished and dirty when found by officers, he said. She had scars on her back, arms and legs from what she said was previous abuse. She said her stepmother put duct tape over her eyes and mouth and bound her wrists behind her back. She hadn’t brushed her teeth in six months since her parents took the toothbrush away as punishment, she told investigators.

Attorney Randy Turner, guardian ad litem for a 15-year-old sister, said there were a number of red flags that something was wrong at the Blackston home. He said his ward was punished once by being made to watch the other children open Christmas presents when she had not been given any, and she was also punished by being placed in the basement.

The 15-year-old had faced a domestic violence charge in a separate incident and was found delinquent, the juvenile-court equivalent to being found guilty. When the juvenile court ruled the girl could not go home, Turner said she was unusually elated.

“She was thrilled to death,” Turner said.

In February, Turner asked the court to order Butler County Children Services to investigate the home. He said the agency didn’t find anything wrong with the home.
“They either didn’t look at the basement or thought it was OK,” Turner said.

He said the three stepchildren were treated differently.

“This isn’t the first time I had to file a complaint like this,” Turner said about children services.

Jeff Centers, executive director of BCCS, said the agency is cooperating with Middletown police, but couldn’t comment further about the agency’s investigation.

Centers said there were staff members placed on administrative leave this week, but would not say if it was related to this case. He said the case is pending an investigation into whether “proper policies and procedures were followed.” He refused to say who the staff members were and how many were on leave.

All of their six children who lived in the Philadelphia home — ages 16, 14, 12, 9, 3 and 2 — are in foster care.

Joanna Blackston has been released on a $25,000 cash or property bond. Her attorney, Ched Hagen Peck of Hamilton, said she denies all of the allegations. Shawn Blackston, whose bail is also $25,000, remains in the city jail Thursday night. The attorney for Shawn Blackston, Daniel R. Allnutt of Franklin, could not be reached for comment.

Reeve said investigators were in touch with the Butler County Prosecutor’s office about the case. Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said he was “fully aware” of the case but “it’s not something I can comment on at this time.”

Both Blackston’s are scheduled for preliminary hearings at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Middletown Municipal Court.
They didn’t return voice messages left Thursday on their cell phone.

On Thursday afternoon, no one answered the door at 1606 Philadelphia. The home is located off Central Avenue in a residential and business downtown neighborhood.

The glass window on the front door was painted, and several cans of cat food littered the front and side yards. There was a trailer in the side yard and no one answered that door either.
There is an empty lot to the south of the home and the two homes to the north are vacant.

One downtown businessman said he usually saw the children standing in the front yard every morning waiting for the school bus.
Marion Sherman, 84, lives around the corner at 17 Garfield St. When told about the allegations against his neighbors, he said he had heard of similar abuse claims on TV, but never “this close to home.”

He called the allegations “just awful,” and if true, the couple should be “locked up for a really long time.”

Joanna Blackston has lived in Middletown since August 2008, and before that lived in Circleville and Hamilton, and a few residences in New York.

Shawn Blackston has lived in Middletown since November 2008, and before that he lived at locations in Pickaway and Fairfield counties .

They have only committed traffic-related offenses, according to a background check. However, Joanna Blackston, whose maiden name is Green, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August 1998 in Cincinnati. She also had three civil judgments in Butler County against her for a collective amount of $15,211.

Shawn Blackston also had three civil judgments filed against him — one in Pickaway County Municipal Court and two in Fairfield County Municipal Court — for a collective $3,150.

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Husted bucks GOP, is against voter photo ID push

Published: Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 6:11 AM
Updated: Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 6:11 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The official who oversees Ohio's elections says he doesn't agree with a measure proposed by some fellow Republicans to require voters to show photo IDs at the polls.   

Secretary of State John Husted tells The Columbus Dispatch on Thursday that he would not change current policy that allows voters to prove their identities with photo IDs or other documents, such as utility bills or paychecks.   

A bill approved by the Ohio House would require voters to show the photo ID before casting an in-person ballot. It is now being reviewed by the Senate.   

Husted instead proposes changes for voters casting early ballots or provisional ballots. He says those voters should be required to give their full Social Security numbers instead of the currently required last four digits.

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New restaurants, retail shops coming to Oxford

Published: Friday, October 28, 2016 @ 2:25 PM
Updated: Saturday, October 29, 2016 @ 4:37 PM

New restaurants and retail shops are coming to a development on the former Walmart site in Oxford.

Bishop Square — a 50,000-square-foot mixed use development at 419 Locust Street that currently includes 272 units of student housing — is adding Marco’s Pizza, Tim Hortons, a Sprint retail store and a bank.

“The final stage is important because we’ll be building the outlots that sit along Locust, which will serve as the front door to the whole project,” said Josh Rothstein, of Blue Ash-based OnSite Retail Group, which is handling marketing and leasing for the project. “The retailers and restaurants are excited to open their locations here because being across from Kroger, TJ Maxx and Dollar Tree provides tremendous exposure, great visibility and easy access to the shoppers already passing through this part of town.

“It’s also easily in walking distance to not only the concentration of Miami’s campus, but also the off-campus housing population,” Rothstein said.

Two other storefronts on the site are being are in the process of being leased, he said.

Existing Bishop Square tenants include Oxford Lane Library, Mercy Health - Orthopaedics and Sports Rehabilitation, Great Clips and Cloud 9 Vapor Lounge. A second-floor above some of those tenants includes office space.

Alan Kyger, Oxford’s economic development director, said the community is excited to see the Bishop Square project moving into its final phases.

“In 2005, when Walmart moved away from this site, the abandoned building that was left behind was a large eyesore for the Tollgate Business District, as well as for the whole community,” Kyger said. “Developer Robert Fiorita is to be commended in providing such a good-looking redevelopment project.

“The addition of these merchants will provide the citizens of Oxford additional shopping options. I expect each of these new businesses to be very successful in this new development.”

Marco’s Pizza has 700 stores in 35 states, doubling in size over the last five years and on track to 1,000 stores by the end of 2017, according to the company. Area locations include Middletown, Monroe, Hamilton and Liberty Twp. in Butler County.

Tim Hortons has more than 4,400 locations in the United States, Canada and the Middle East. Area locations include Monroe, Springboro and Maineville in Warren County.

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Crash victim lived to fly, friend says

Published: Saturday, June 09, 2012 @ 8:16 AM
Updated: Saturday, June 09, 2012 @ 8:16 AM

A 73-year-old Bellbook man killed in a plane crash Saturday morning was an experienced pilot who had built four planes like the “experimental aircraft” he flew that day, according to his wife.

Roger Flower died in the 8 a.m. crash, said Sgt. Anthony Pearcy of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“Some witnesses in the area did see the plane flying and the witnesses believe they did see something fall off the plane,” he said.

Flying out of the Lewis A. Jackson Regional Airport in Greene County, the plane flown by Flower crashed about 100 yards from a house at 1856 Ohio 380. Debris from the crash spread about 300 feet and the plane had extensive damage.

Flower was a naval aviator for 31 years who still loved to fly in his retirement, said Jan Flower, his wife of 50 years.

“It was his life, ” she said. “He was flying a plane that he had built and flew out of Greene County Airport and was there every day and loved it.”

After retiring from the Navy, he became a certified aviation engineer and began building his own aircraft, his wife said.

“He knew what he was doing about building it and just loved it and wasn’t ready to give up airplanes, so he built them,” she said.

Both natives of Ohio, Roger and Jan Flower have four sons and moved to Bellbrook eight years ago, when they were done traveling with the Navy.

She described her husband as “a leader, totally confident. (He) could tackle anything, could build or fix anything, loved his children and his grandchildren, (and) loved serving in his church.”

The OHSP is investigating the crash with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.

The plane was a fixed wing, single engine, experimental/homemade aircraft, according to the patrol.

“According to the family members, it’s been flown before,” said Pearcy.

There was no flight plan filed for the plane and the destination of the flight was unknown, Pearcy said.

“As unfortunate as this incident is, it is fortunate that no other people were involved,” Pearcy said.

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Arrest made in slaying of businessman

Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 @ 7:44 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 @ 7:44 PM

Police have arrested a 20-year-old Dayton man in the slaying of a business owner found dead inside a burned out garage last week.

Anthony Lamar Stargell Jr. was arrested Wednesday morning and is in the Montgomery County Jail pending the filing of an unclassified felony murder charge.

Dayton Sgt. Dan Mauch said detectives believe Stargell shot and killed 54-year-old Tommy Nickles before setting a fire inside 838 S. Main St. on April 3.

“The fire did not do the damage that the perpetrator expected,” Mauch said Wednesday afternoon. He said evidence collected inside the business and from Nickles’ stolen work van helped lead detectives to Stargell. The van was recovered by police late April 3 in the 400 block of Leland Avenue.

A search warrant was executed at 2905 Oakridge Drive on Wednesday, where Stargell occasionally stays with family. He was taken into custody at about 11 a.m.

Nickles, of Kettering, died from multiple gunshot wounds and was found in a garage where he ran Quality One Electrical Service. A Golden retriever that had been shot to death also was found in the building, police said.

Nickles' family confirmed last week that he had been living in the building because of a recent divorce. They said they couldn’t fathom why someone would want to kill the father of two. 

“Tom was a good man, he was a good father,” said Gavin Whitt, Nickles’ godson.

Mauch said Stargell and Nickles knew each other. He said police are investigating robbery as a possible motive or that Nickles possibly owed Stargell money.

“It’s still an ongoing investigation,” he said. Police also are trying to locate several individuals who may have stolen property belonging to Nickles.

According to court records, Stargell was convicted of robbery in February 2011 and sentenced to five years’ probation.

His mother, Tonya Bailey, said her son recently got out of prison, but she doesn’t believe that he is responsible for Nickles’ death.

“I don’t think that he did do it, but if he did do it he didn’t do it by himself,” she said.

She said Stargell wasn’t on South Main Street on the night Nickles was killed. “He was here,” she said at her mother’s house on Wednesday.

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